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January 25, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 5:06 pm

The other day, I decided to look back over my posts from the last 8 months or so and something struck me about the duck dinners I’d been making. There’s been: 

  1. Duck with zesty orange sauce
  2. Duck with raspberry coulis
  3. Duck with blackcurrant glaze
  4. Duck with cherries and brandy

Oh no! I’ve become stuck in a duck with fruit rut!  The one exception to this was the spontaneous curried duck but I was very drunk when I made that, so I’m not sure if it counts.

In desperation to get out of this dangerous habit, I went looking around the internet for ideas. It seems that most of the world was ALSO stuck in a duck with fruit rut. There are a few recipes for duck with port but even they seems to involve cassis. There were some red wine reductions suggested too but, meh, boring!

So, with the internet yielding no inspiration I went looking around the shops when my eye was caught by …


beautiful bright pink rhubarb. It had been ages since I’d cooked with it. The last time had been in a rhubarb crumble I made about three years ago. I imagined the tanginess going really well with my duck and to make it even better, rhubarb isn’t a fruit, it’s a vegetable, so i would be out of the fruit rut!

The only problem I could see was that Goon didn’t like rhubarb and, let’s face it, it isn’t as easy to disguise as figs are.

Later on at home, Goon was looking very suspiciously at the rhubarb. ”Rhubarb’s sour!” he said. Apparently there’d been bad childhood experiences with rhubarb crumble. So I did what I thought best, and ignored him. :razz:   

Looking through my cupboards, I found a few chunks of stem ginger to add to my rhubarb compote, which turned out to be remarkably simple to make.  I simmered the rhubarb, ginger and a sprig of rosemary together in some cider with loads of sugar until the rhubarb was soft.

 simmering rhubarb

Then I poured off the excess water and removed the rosemary. Finally I pan fried the duck breasts to rare (well, verging on medium this time perhaps)  and served them with the compote and sides of some asparagus sauteed with garlic and gratin dauphinoise.

duck with rhubarb compote

Yay, pink! \o/ The crazy pink colour of the compote was enough to get Goon to try some. The gingery flavour alonside the tanginess was enough to keep him eating it. Who needs artifical colours and flavours when you’ve got stem ginger and rhubarb?  It was lovely with the duck and the creamy dauphinoise was a really good accompaniment. We washed it all down with an equally pink and slightly sweet Californian rosé.

I’ve decided to put this up for weeked herb blogging, which this week is being hosted by Ed at Tomato . So, to make it educational,  here are some interesting facts about rhubarb.

Apparently rhubarb wasn’t eaten before the 17th Century, when sugar became readily available to most people. I guess that makes sense: it’s pretty damn sour by itself. It contains a fair bit of oxalic acid, which in high doses is a neurotoxin, although you’d have to eat about 5kg of rhubarb leaves (or even more of the shoots)  to have any harmful effects. There’s still enough in rhubarb stems to strip your teeth a little though!

The rhubarb bought at this time of year is ‘forced’ to grow out of season by increasing the temperature around the plant. This is done by covering the plant with an upturned bucket. Forced rhubab is more tender and more brightly coloured than that grown in season. Traditionally, this first rhubarb of the year is grown in the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ of Leeds, Wakefield and Morely.

And, quite annoyingly, even though rhubarb was always considered a vegetable in the past, this changed in the 1940s. When the plant was exported to the States, the confused officials didn’t know how to classify it. They decided it should be classified on how it was eaten. So I guess, technically, if I’d eaten my compote in America, I would have been eating a fruit and I’d still feel stuck in a rut.

For once, I’m glad I’m in England!


  1. Yum! I haven’t had duck in sooo long that when i was finally feeling flush enough to splash out, i toddled on down to sainsburys to find…. skinless duck breasts. Why? WHY?!! :-(

    Comment by Schmoofaloof — January 25, 2007 @ 6:10 pm

  2. That’s the kind of thing my parents would have bought in their meat eating days. Low fat was more important that flavour, which I think is a great shame. I’ve seen some nice duck breasts in Tesco with skin on recently although these came from Borough.

    Comment by ros — January 25, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  3. I love duck but it’s hard to find and expensive here. Rhubarb is officially a vegetable, so you have broken out of your rut very nicely, and it sounds delicious.

    Comment by Kalyn — January 25, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

  4. Goodness! Either duck is much less expensive in the UK, or you’re an heiress masquerading as a student! Either way, I’m so jealous you get to eat duck so often. I adore it.

    Thanks for dropping me a line at my blog, Ros. I won’t tell your parents you’ve outed them as completely and utterly mad.

    “Mad.” That’s so British. We always say crazy. I love it!

    Comment by PatL — January 26, 2007 @ 3:25 am

  5. I have a duck in the freezer that I’ve been pushing myself to use - I was going for a fruit sauce (using my unset quince jelly from the Autumn) but rhubarb could just surpass it. Love rhubarb me…

    Comment by Andrew — January 28, 2007 @ 2:29 am

  6. So many sweet things go with duck but I’d never thought of rhubarb or range or raspberry or blackcurrent. Incidentally stewed rhubarb is one of my favourite breakfasts. Sorry about being cheeky over yuor rhubarb coloured text and thanks for taking part in Weekend Herb Blogging.

    Comment by Ed — January 30, 2007 @ 2:24 am

  7. Kalyn and PatL: I tried to look up the prices for duck in the States but it turned out to be quite hard. I saw $20 per kilo quoted, which is about the same as I paid for the duck breasts (£6 for 480g.) You can get small whole ducks for a lot less though. I’ve seen them for about £5.50. Its funny how duck is moreexpensive over there - everything else seems to be much cheaper!

    Andrew: Quince or rhubarb… that is a tough one. I’d say go for the rhubarb while it’s in season!

    Ed: I think you’ll find the text is actually raspberry coloured ;) . Thanks for hosting this week. It must be such hard work to sort it all out!

    Comment by ros — January 31, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

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